Advice on setting up a forum for my feelie

I’ve developed a feelie story: A cozy murder mystery that is told through letters, postcards, objects, and artworks—all of which are posted to the reader over the course of eight weeks. There’s a bit more info about the story itself, Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday, here.

It will be released by the publisher of my novels, Odyssey Books, who has a new imprint for quirky visual stories for adults called Publisher Obscura.

A standard story will cost just $30 including postage so it’ll be accessible to the kind of person that can’t afford to spend $100 or $500 on something purely enjoyable. During the Kickstarter campaign, there’ll also be a digital-only version for just $5.

The forum will be a place where people can talk to the authors and artists (directly, in some cases), discuss clues and theories with other readers week by week, and post their own art (which the publisher will scout for future Murder in the Mail stories).

A lot of the readers will be pure luddites, possibly even people who’ve never been on a forum before (including underage readers). So I want a very simple interface that is self-explanatory with easy navigation and good image support. It also needs to be easy to get rid of trolls and have limited-access sections (like the list-with-sections layout and private author forum here at intfic). Something even simpler than this forum (and with less features, but keeping the opening screen prompting a read of the Code of Conduct, and keeping the ability to PM people).

So I’m looking for recommendations of how to set up the forum.

The publisher can pay for web domain etc if necessary.

[Forgive me if I don’t join in discussion for a while; I have a big operation and long recovery starting in a coupla days. Do feel free to talk amongst yourselves.]

This sounds cool; a cross between GRIFFIN AND SABINE and MYSTERIOUS PACKAGE CO.


forces self not to waste another hour talking about it when I should be writing

I’m told proboards will most likely suit me. Any comments to the contrary?

I’d suggest Discourse, since I’ve heard good things about it, but I don’t have any experience setting it up.

Xenforo is a very polished forum software that is developed by the original developers of vBulletin. I have been using Linode for my servers since 2009, they are the best value and quality on the internet. Linode can provide installation and maintenance for a fee or you can do it yourself following their excellent tutorials. I will add that maintaining a forum and server are time intensive and fraught with peril, especially the email server portion. Security is job one. I don’t care for the Discoruse user interface.


i’ve heard good things about discourse and it looks chatty and modern.

However, i’ve not tried it. I’m still using vanilla forums, which is not so new and funky, buy i’ve got no complaints. stuff like phpBB and simplemachines are too old and creaky now.

The Choice of Games forums use Discourse.

Have you perhaps looked at any of the turnkey website companies like SquareSpace or Wix? They offer forum plugins and templates (and other goodies like mailing lists and online stores). My Wix site was easy to create, and I have zero web skills. SquareSpace has been touted on podcasts to let you play with the tools and create your website before paying.

Ooh, mailing lists. Publishers love that stuff, and it’d be a great way to tell people if/when we were making another story in the same system.

Lots of really great info, thank you everyone!